Computer Picks: 02/03/2010—Twelve on the Clock

Updated: March 2, 2010 at 6:46 am by Jeff Tay

I often tend to feel overwhelmed whenever I see a full slate of games like this near the beginning of the week. I am simply not that well-equipped to handle this many games while trying to juggle everything else that comes with the weekdays. However, I do have a very clear and decisive plan when it comes to this Tuesday, and that is to play the post-Olympic high-scoring trend. Both the years of 2002 and 2006 have shown that defensive hockey takes a step back when it comes to returning from the winter games, and 2010 ought to be similar. Furthermore, there seem to be a good number of matchups this Tuesday which would more often than not produce high-scoring games to begin with. Let’s take a look.

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Vancouver Canucks vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
The lowest scoring game in this head-to-head series this season was their most recent meeting on February 12th, in which the Canucks came back from a third period deficit to win 4-3. The other two meetings have finished 7-3 and 5-3. There may be good goaltending between these two teams, but that often fails to materialize when they meet up. Look towards the Over 5.5.

Florida Panthers vs. Atlanta Thrashers
The question surrounding Florida continues to be where the goals are going to come from. The home team in this series has won 4 out of 5 games this season, and Atlanta continues to fill the net even with the departure of Ilya Kovalchuk. It’s gotta be the home team or nothing here.

Chicago Blackhawks vs. New York Islanders
The Blackhawks are looking to continue with their winning ways, but their last 3 games before the break actually all ended via the shootout. Chicago was playing run-and-gun hockey, and they’ve had a tendency all season long to do this when faced with lesser opponents. The Islanders, meanwhile, have had their own problems trying to keep the puck out of their net, as indicated by their recent goaltending rotation. It’s been 11 games since an Islanders’ goaltender has been allowed to start in consecutive games. The Over 5.5 here looks really good.

Carolina Hurricanes vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs were actually doing quite well at home after their frenzy of player trades. No team was probably doing better than Carolina though—the Hurricanes won 9 out of 11 games going into the break, and their last 5 wins were without number-one goaltender, Cam Ward. A stronger case can probably be made here for taking Carolina and the Over 5.5, as opposed to Toronto and the Under 5.5. I can see reasonable cases for the other side as well though.

Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins
Boston finally managed to defeat Montreal for the first time in 4 tries this season on February 7th, and since then, they have reeled off 4 straight wins. Jaroslav Halak stayed sharp and busy over the Olympic break though, starting a total of 7 games for Slovakia, and if he gets the start here, he could stifle a Bruins offense that still has a lot to prove. The Canadiens do have a slew of day-to-day injuries though, which include Andrei Kostitsyn, Benoit Pouliot, and Andrei Markov, so there are just a ton of question marks surrounding this game. I’d rather go with the +155 than the -175 though.

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Going into the break, the Flyers were hot and the Lightning were not. Antero Niittymaki and Mike Smith combined to give up 15 goals in their last 3 starts, while Michael Leighton has yet to give up more than 2 goals in a game since filling in for Ray Emery once again. The Flyers have also won all 3 meetings that they’ve had this season against the Lightning in dominant fashion (4-1, 5-2, and 6-2). There’s plenty of reason to take Philadelphia for the season sweep.

Buffalo Sabres vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
There was a 6-game stretch right before the break, where Ryan Miller was actually struggling, but perhaps it is safe to say, after watching him over the last two weeks, that he should be just fine. The struggling goaltender in this matchup might actually be Marc-Andre Fleury, who was giving up 3.50 goals per game going into the break, and has not seen any game action in a full 2 weeks. The two most recent meetings between these two teams ended 5-4 Pittsburgh and 4-3 Buffalo, so close and high-scoring might be the trend here.

New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators
Henrik Lundqvist was sharp going into the Olympics, and remained sharp for most of the tournament as well, and in 3 meetings this season, he has not given up more than 2 goals to Ottawa. The Sens were getting it done at both ends of the ice though when they went on their 11-game win streak. After their streak ended, however, Ottawa has given up 14 goals in 4 games. Consistency on offense is the question mark for New York, and consistency on defense is the question mark for Ottawa.

Edmonton Oilers vs. Nashville Predators
If head-to-head numbers mean anything, then the Over 5.5 is the only way to look in this game. In 3 head-to-head meetings this season, the road team has won by scores of 5-3, 6-3, and 6-1. Both teams were also struggling to keep the pucks out of their own nets going into the break. Unfortunately, Edmonton can’t quite find the back of the net at the offensive end of the rink at all, so most of the scoring here will probably be carried out by Nashville.

Los Angeles Kings vs. Dallas Stars
The most amazing stat here might be the fact that Dallas has not won more than 2 games in a row all season long. The Stars have been good at home this season though, and they will have another opportunity to win that elusive third straight game here against the Kings. The Kings have been division killers this season, however, and they own a 3-0 record this season against the Stars, but when it comes down to who this game means more to, the advantage probably goes to Dallas.

St Louis Blues vs. Phoenix Coyotes
The Coyotes scored just 1 goal in their last 2 games before the break, which is a far cry from St Louis’ 10 goals in their last 3 before the break. The games between these two teams this season have all been tight and low-scoring, and so, the road team can certainly hang around in this one. St Louis is 16-9-4 on the road this season which isn’t quite as good as Phoenix’s home record of 22-9-2, but still pretty strong.

New Jersey Devils vs. San Jose Sharks
San Jose’s top line of Thornton, Marleau, and Heatley shouldn’t miss a beat when they return to the Shark Tank, whereas Martin Brodeur’s erratic play, in both NHL and Olympic hockey, could continue. The Devils have also lost 6 straight games away from home, and San Jose might be one of the tougher places for them to snap that kind of slide in. The Sharks scored 18 goals during their last home stand of 5 games, which also included games against standout Olympic goaltenders Jonas Hiller and Ryan Miller.